On December 26, 2004, an earthquake in the Indian Ocean resulted in a series of devastating tsunamis, killing over 230,000 people in fourteen countries. A student from Singapore asks for advice on prayers that can be done in the wake of this disaster.
Dear Venerable Thubten Chodron,
I believe you have heard about the deadly tsunami that killed thousands of people in India, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia. It’s the worst tragedy for the world when many want to rejoice in the arrival of the new year 2005 and have made new resolutions. Life is short and so fragile. Now I must wake up daily with appreciations that I live and see my loved ones around me.
To mark the year 2004 coming to an end, the least I could do to help the tsunami victims is to do some short prayers for them and their families. Thus I wonder if you would recommend me with any short prayers to offer for the benefit of those victims?
May all beings be well and happy!
Venerable Thubten Chodron’s response
Your wish to do prayers for the tsunami victims is a wonderful one, and prayers definitely help others as well as ourselves. There are several in the prayer books Pearl of Wisdom Book I and Pearl of Wisdom Book II that you can do. The prayers may also be downloaded from this website.
Here are the prayers I recommend doing:
- The Four Immeasurables (long version). This is found in the Chenrezig Meditation in Pearl of Wisdom, Book II.
- The Three Principal Aspects of the Path. Pearl of Wisdom, Book I.
- The Foundation of All Good Qualities. Pearl of Wisdom, Book I.
- The King of Prayers (The Extraordinary Practice of Samanthabhadra). Pearl of Wisdom, Book II.
You could also chant om mani padme hum, the compassion mantra, and imagine Kuan Yin (Chenrezig) sending healing light to all the victims. If you want to meditate more extensively, the guided meditation of Chenrezig is on the website.
You could do any or all of these prayers. People have different meanings of “short” prayers, so you can choose. The shortest and most essential prayer is the one at the bottom of this email (the short version of the Four Immeasurables).
Also dedicate so that those who have died will have precious human rebirths with all the conducive internal and external conditions to practice the Dharma so that they will become fully enlightened Buddhas. Dedicate for their families and for you and your families so that we will use our precious human life wisely and make it meaningful. That means not wasting time in being angry, resentful, jealous, and greedy, but taking the time to consciously cultivate a kind heart, love, compassion, bodhicitta, and wisdom. Let’s study, contemplate and meditate on the Buddha’s teachings for the benefit of all sentient beings.
On a practical level, donate to a charity organization that is helping the victims of the tsunamis. If you have the opportunity, go to an affected area and do volunteer work. Or if you can’t directly help the tsunami victims, help someone in your country. What’s important is that we reach beyond our limited self-centered wishes and connect with other sentient beings in a loving and wise way.
Venerable Thubten Chodron
The Four Immeasurables
May all sentient beings have happiness and its causes.
May all sentient beings be free from suffering and its causes.
May all sentient beings never be separated from sorrowless bliss.
May all sentient beings abide in equanimity, free of bias, attachment, and anger.